ICAO is revising the policy rulebook regarding Air Traffic Flow Management. How do you believe ATFM will change the operational role of an air navigation service provider in cooperative planning and delay minimisation? Can AFTM be achieved through the collaboration of ANSPs? Or is a central manager required to mediate the best solution? To what extent should airlines form an integrated part of the ATFM solution?
ATFM is a crucial part of Air Traffic Management. That is a tactical function. There is also a political function, to manage those flows. In Europe, for the last few decades this function has been successfully delivered by the CFMU – now the Network Manager – managed by EUROCONTROL.
This central function has its indisputable value. Of course to work properly, it foresees strong cooperation of several stakeholders including the airlines and the ANSPs. Not only has the NM fulfilled that role it is now a fundamental part of creating a single European sky, as well as for cooperation with States outside the EU.
Achieving AFTM through the collaboration of ANSPs alone is a good question. However the answer is not so clear. There will always be a need for an independent decision maker. ATM is dynamic and changing environment but we do not see any major need for dramatic changes, taking into account that airlines should naturally form an integrated part of the ATFM solution to the extent they can reasonably contribute.
Integration of ATM through SWIM and CDM leads to complex inter-organisational architectural issues including cyber security. How does a business such as an air navigation service provider go about establishing an integrated, organisation-wide approach to managing information security risk? How do you learn to trust your neighbours?
The question is part trusting our neighbours; it is also learning from our neighbours. We cooperate with a number of our neighbours through the FABs and organisations such as CANSO. It is also important to learn from similar industries such as banks, nuclear energy firms and so on. We need to always be aware of what is best practice and what new developments are occurring. Security, both physical and cyber requires constant vigilance and constant learning.
What will drive the uptake of remote tower technology within your own air navigation service provider? Also, how long will it be before remote operations break free from existing centres or facilities owned by an airport or air navigation service provider? What will be the most important factors for consideration if it does so?
We witnessed a small revolution in ATM when our colleagues from northern Europe put several remote TWRs into operation. This new technology is discussed more and more, even within our own company, and I believe it could be deployed in the future on some of the regional airports with medium/low traffic volume.
However this change of ANS provision also has social and economic effects which have to be analyzed well before its introduction. It can take several years before such decisions can be made, when you are speaking about airports with already existing ATC centres. On the other hand, smaller airports with no ATC services, but having an ambition for controlled flights, can be considered as suitable candidates for remote tower operation without any need for big investments into new control centres.
How important will new and potentially disruptive technologies be in allowing air navigation service providers to change the way they do business today? In what areas will this evolution be most apparent, where and within what timeframe?
New technologies are always big drivers for most of the changes in business. ATM is not an exception. The concept of virtual towers or centres mentioned above is a very good example. Nevertheless aviation changes slowly but surely. This will be also the case of introducing of these new technologies. We must always remember that safety is the highest priority. Any change of a well-functioning system must be considered very carefully indeed.
Space-based systems (eg, Inmarsat, Galileo, Aireon,) will form a central component of Europe’s overall ATM system. What challenges is your air navigation service provider facing in developing a comprehensive satellite-based approach in each of these areas: communications, navigation and surveillance?
The changes that space-based systems represent are broader than merely CNS. As the market opens and liberalises a number of new technologies and new opportunities will arise. The challenge for any ANSP in that situation is to keep a consistent strategy for both addressing these developments and service delivery.
That will call for clear planning and clear decision making, often beyond any one ANSP. Whether that is within FABs or between other groupings will be a question to be determined. For smaller ANSPs that is likely to include the need to consider strategic partnerships.
In the US, NASA supported by large companies such as Google is working towards a working definition of a UAV Traffic Management System (UTM) that would allow autonomous UAV operations over populated areas. Who do you think should be responsible for UTM in your national airspace? Do you think UTM solutions will allow for further innovation of ATC for manned flight?
UAV or RPAS has been a quite big topic in the last year. The definition of UTM is of utmost importance, as the number of RPAS operators increases daily. Responsibility for our national airspace is in the hands of national authorities as defined by law. The same will be valid for UTM.
Nevertheless basic rules, procedures and regulations need to be developed and defined in a common way across Europe or even at the global level. That is also the reason why ANS CR recently contributed to one of the SESAR RPAS demonstration projects, called INSuRE.
The issue is really complex and it will take several more years before we see full integration of RPAS/UAV in the airspace. Of particular concern is flying over populated areas with autonomous UAV. This has many unsolved aspects like ensuring safety, security and legal responsibility. And of course, the new UTM solutions may allow further innovation of ATC for manned flights.
With so many changes in technology (space-based assets, regional systems) and potentially new forms of service provision (virtual tower providers) how do you see the high level risks to ANSPs changing? Are changes required to the regulatory framework to help mitigate emerging risks?
The risks in ATM are the same as ever. We must ensure safe operation of flight. That does not change. The technology can make that happen more safely, or may allow greater volumes of traffic to safely operate, or shift focus from local to regional but that is only modality. The risk and the responsibility never changes.
What additional contribution could your airport and airline industry partners be making to help your air navigation service provision achieve its capacity, efficiency, cost reduction and enhanced safety goals?
At the end of the day, we are all in the same industry. We need intensive mutual communication and sharing of appropriate data, including sensitive data, to be able to deliver the outcomes we all seek. As part of that, we need a clear understanding of what are the priorities for each of the players. For instance, do the air space users want us to focus on capacity or cost efficiency?
Mutual cooperation calls for a bottom-up approach between the ANSP, the airports and the airlines. It cannot be forced down from above. The other important thing to remember is that it is not a one size fits all situation. Every airport, every airline is different.
The adoption of innovative technologies can have a considerable social and employment impact. What imaginative steps could be taken to deliver advanced technologies and procedures that are embraced with enthusiasm by those who will ultimately deploy them?
We are about to start employing young professionals that grew up with IT as standard. The opportunities are huge. They are keen to participate and not scared of new technologies. We have to take an active, forward leaning approach to recruitment and training. At the same time, we must never forget the importance of social dialogue with our trade unions and other groups. The challenge for HR is the continuous need to be looking for new talent.
Do you see a future where more global solutions lead to agile air navigation service providers competing to provide services or will the same solutions be used to reinforce centralised decision-making by highly regulated and monolithic monopoly ANSPs?
I certainly see the possibility of both outcomes. The question is which one the industry decides to adopt. I would like to highlight that, for the future, it´s absolutely necessary to ensure consistent strategy and approach from the regulatory bodies. To combine tools for a competitive environment and for centralised decision-making is like running a dead horse. From my point of view, only industry liberalization, which will ensure the sustainable development and at the same time fulfill the airspace users requirements is the right way.